Alcohol and cocaine are often used together in party atmospheres. Some people enjoy the feeling of combining the lowered inhibitions and sedation they get from alcohol alongside the stimulant effects of cocaine. However, mixing these two substances is dangerous- the combination of alcohol and cocaine is one of the most deadly out there.
What Happens in the Body When Alcohol and Cocaine Are Mixed?
Alcohol is a depressant drug. What this means is that alcohol slows or inhibits the functioning of the central nervous system (the brain.) Essentially, it reduces brain activity and slows functioning. The changes in behavior you observe in a drunk person- such as slurred speech, lack of coordination, or poor judgment- are a result of this effect.
In contrast, cocaine is a stimulant- it speeds up the brain and the body’s physical processes. That’s why people experience bursts of energy, restlessness, anxiety, and increased blood pressure and heart rate when they use cocaine. Unlike alcohol, cocaine speeds up the central nervous system.
When alcohol and cocaine are combined, the brain receives opposite messages from the substances. This means that the result of mixing the two drugs is often unpredictable. However, this combination does produce a chemical that doesn’t result from any other mixture of substances: cocaethylene. This metabolite is produced in the liver when these two drugs mix, and it can cause severe physical consequences, including death. In fact, due to this chemical reaction, the risk of death is 18-25 times higher for people who combine alcohol and cocaine than it is for people who only use cocaine (Journal of Addictive Diseases.) Cocaethylene also increases the risk of addiction because it prolongs the effects of both drugs and produces euphoria, which can be habit-forming. In addition, cocaethylene is linked to liver damage, convulsions and seizures, and damage to the immune system (Journal of Addictive Diseases.)
Other Potential Risks
In addition to the production of cocaethylene by the liver, there are other dangerous side effects associated with mixing alcohol and cocaine. Both drugs increase the effects of the other on the brain and cardiovascular system, increasing the risk of heart attack and alcohol poisoning. Because cocaine masks the effects of sedation and drunkenness produced by alcohol, doing both at once may cause someone to get more drunk than they intended or to get drunk more quickly, without noticing it. This can also increase the risk of blacking out or getting alcohol poisoning, and can cause reckless or impulsive behavior.
Both drugs put pressure on the cardiovascular system and the liver, which is responsible for getting toxins out of the body. This increased stress can lead to organ damage in users who choose to mix alcohol and cocaine.
The euphoric effects or “high” produced by mixing alcohol and cocaine can lead to cravings for both drugs and can result in polysubstance dependence (when someone is addicted to more than one drug.) This condition complicates treatment and may cause someone with alcoholism to develop an addiction to cocaine or vice versa.
Changes in Emotion and Behavior
In addition to the physical dangers of mixing alcohol and cocaine, engaging in this behavior comes with serious behavioral effects. Cocaine causes:
- Increases in energy
- Paranoia or anxiety
Alcohol affects the brain differently, resulting in impaired judgment, relaxation, and trouble with decision-making and concentration. Together, these two drugs may cause someone to make dangerous decisions like driving under the influence, having unprotected sex, or engaging in violence. Binge drinking can already lead to these choices; adding the energy and impulsiveness caused by a stimulant can motivate people to make very harmful choices that can result in injury.
The effects produced by alcohol and cocaine can also cause mood swings and emotional consequences. Coming down from cocaine can result in depression, anxiety, and lack of motivation, while excessive alcohol use can also cause depression and mood disturbances. Together, these drugs can result in emotional despair and trouble with normal functioning once the effects of them have worn off.
Getting Help for Alcohol and Cocaine Use
Seeking treatment for a problem with cocaine and alcohol can be complicated. Being dependent on more than one substance lowers the chances of a successful treatment outcome because dual addictions require more intense intervention and care. In order to get effective treatment, users of both of these drugs need treatment that focuses on dual diagnoses or polysubstance dependence. Wellness Resource Center offers treatment for both cocaine and alcohol addiction as well as care for underlying issues that may go along with these addictions, such as mood disorders. For information on getting help for an addiction to alcohol and cocaine, contact Wellness today at 888-821-0238.